Word problems combine two very important skills: reading and math. When we put the two together, it can cause a problem not only for those who struggle with math, but those who struggle with reading as well. However, there simple ways to solve math word problems to make every student a superstar.
#1: Remove the Fluff
One thing math word problems tend to do is add a bunch of information that we really don’t need to understand the actual problem. Therefore, if we teach students to focus on the numbers we need and the vocabulary words that tell us what to do with those numbers it can make it much simpler to solve.
After we’ve talked about removing the fluff, it’s important to talk about adding it back in again to completely answer the question. I encourage you to have your students write the answers in sentence form so they get comfortable with numbers and reading going together.
#2: Know Your Math Words
A huge part of math word problems is the reading aspect. When we have students read a math problem, it adds a whole new element. If students have reading comprehension problems, this can cause anxiety for the student.
One way to make math word problems simpler is to have the math words (lesser, more, etc.) and phrases on a word wall or anchor chart. Often, the issue isn’t knowing the math, it is understanding what the problem is asking you to do. Having an anchor chart or word wall available can help students see the basic words used in math word problems.
#3: Know Your Math Facts
If reading is the only “new” element, you should always review the math concepts that are being taught. Often, if students know what they are looking for in general, they can spot it easier and with practice it becomes second nature.
Therefore, using spiral review and re-learning, re-teaching some of these basic math skills can be vital to the success of your students when it comes to word problems. You can use spiral review in a variety of ways in the classroom to make learning fun and meaningful.
#4: Use Word Problems in Your Centers
One universal truth, is that practice makes perfect. When you are practicing with your students, use your learning centers to help teach each aspect of a word problem explicitly. Also, you can throw in some math into your literacy centers to help reinforce these skills.
#5: Motivate Your Mornings
Another way to implement math word problems in your classroom is to use it as a morning motivator. A quick problem every day or every other day can help reinforce these skills. Because, the more students are exposed to word problems, the more comfortable they will become with the whole process.
#6: Challenge Their Writing with Word Problems
Sometimes when we are learning a new skill, we need to see how it would work in the real world. Challenge your students to find a math word problem in the world and write about it. Then, you can, as a class, solve some of these problems on the board. Seeing the real world application is always effective for students because they see how a word problems works.
Reading can be a challenge. Math can be a challenge. Putting them together can be very difficult, but using these simple steps your students will be reading, solving, and writing story problems in no time.